So I was on a chick-lit-drive recently, and chanced upon a couple of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. I had read her Black Sheep and Venetia a while back, and wasn’t very impressed with either of those, but decided to give her another try based on the Goodreads ratings.
“Little” Sophy, daughter of diplomat Horace Stanton-Lacy, is sent to live with her aunt’s family (consisting of aunt, uncle, cousin Cecelia, cousin Charles, cousin Hubert and sundry unremarkable children) while her father is away on a mission. Turns out Sophy is not “little” in any sense of the word. She is tall, weird looking (but still pretty enough, coz this is a romance), is a chronic problem-solver, and, as any netizen worth his photoshopped profile pic would put it, has the swag.
I loved this one. It’s good fun, and Sophy is such a dramatic and unpredictable heroine, even the reader has no idea whom she’s going to shock next.
Heyer has a good sense of humour, and this is reflected in a few almost Wodehouse-ish lines, as well as the situations Sophy finds herself in. A melodramatic tête-à-tête with a Jewish moneylender which involves a lot of not-really empty threats and a nice little gun was my particular favourite, although it seems to have offended a lot of people on Goodreads with its negative portrayal of Jews.
The insinuation that he would not welcome a visit from a law-officer seemed to wound him.
‘Augustus,’ announced Cecelia, putting up her chin, ‘will be remembered long after you have sunk into oblivion!’
‘By his creditors? I don’t doubt it.’
I did find myself wishing for a few more lines of this sort. Heyer is funny, but never quite reaches anywhere near Wodehouse, which, I suppose, is a tall order for anyone except Plum himself, but still, considering that they were both contemporaries, some of his brand of humour does seem to have seeped into Heyer’s writing.
Her characters are really quite well-done too. Sophy is wild and unpredictable, but lovably unapologetic about her behaviour, and Charles is rather stiff-necked and haughty, at least in the beginning. But the one sketch I liked the most was that of Augustus Fawnhope, lover of Sophy’s cousin Cecelia, a very poetic and sentimental personality, and the type of person Wodehouse would have called a sop. Fawnhope reminded me very much of Madeleine Bassett, and even behaves similarly.
Mr Fawnhope having become rapt in contemplation of a clump of daffodils, which caused him to throw out a hand, murmuring: “Daffodils that come before the swallow dares!”
‘It is you!’ announced Mr Fawnhope, staring at her. ‘For a moment, as you stood there, the lamp held above your head, I thought I beheld a goddess! A goddess, or a vestal virgin!
‘Well, if I were you,’ interposed Sir Vincent practically, ’I would come in out of the rain while you make up your mind.’
The climax, involving a farmhouse, gruntled and disgruntled amours, a few ducks, pigs, and rain, is absolutely hilarious, and finishes the story off with a bang.
Dear reader, if ever you are given the chance to read only one Heyer, let this one be it.
Quotes to remember:
‘I never indulge commonplace thoughts,’ said Sir Vincent. ‘Not, at all events, in relation to the Grand Sophy.’
P.S. This is Book 10 in the Brunch Book Challenge, my Twitter handle is @sindbadrose, and the challenge is at #BrunchBookChallenge.. 🙂